In his lecture for Prisons Week, Bishop James, the Bishop for Prisons will argue for a need for greater emphasis on restorative justice.
The Bishop will argue that the Criminal Justice System has a weakness in that it “delivers a system that is depersonalized which leaves both the victim and the offender stranded in a no man’s land.”
Bishop James will draw on his experience in talking to a variety of prisoners around the country to argue that “we need to be bold in experimenting alternative systems”. He will point to the high level of reoffending and the estimates that only 4% of women and 12% of men need to be in prison for society’s protection. He will state we should be asking “why are we locking up so many at such public expense when the alternatives would certainly be cheaper and might also be more effective in reducing the offending.”
Pointing to the parable of the Prodigal Son, Bishop James will state that this story raises a question which hangs over our society “the question that presses upon all of us concerned with the Criminal Justice System is whether or not we believe in the redeemability of the offender.”
The Bishop will also state that “in the revelation of God in Jesus Christ we are presented with a God who is both a prisoner and one who is punished.” This leads to the plethora of Christian Groups involved in prison ministry. He commends the work of Prison Chaplains and urges churches and parishes to become more involved in “community Chaplaincy building pathways out of prison into the community”. He will state that the Big Society can open wide the gate to volunteers from the independent sector to enter into relationships with prisoner and probationer to offer nurture, support, mentoring, accountability which are vital to their rehabilitation.”
Bishop James ends his lecture with a call for every “parish could pray for those who live in prisons and for those who work in prisons” saying “ It would be good to identify discreetly those from the parish who are prisoners and where appropriate for the vicar to write to them with an assurance of prayer.”
He also calls for every Deanery which has a prison within its boundary to “pray faithfully for the Chaplains in the prison and to explore with the Chaplaincy and the Deanery how they might work together to build pathways back into the community.”
Read the full text of Bishop James' speech here.